Yorkshire calls on PM May to bridge growing North-South divide

THE YORKSHIRE Post today calls on new Prime Minister Theresa May for a fresh push to tackle the North-South divide as figures show the region faces a decade of falling further behind.

As the region marks Yorkshire Day today, The Yorkshire Post calls on Theresa May to do more to tackle the North-South divide.

Today’s special Yorkshire Day edition of The Yorkshire Post, which will be presented to the Prime Minister along with a letter backed by key figures, highlights six priority areas for action to help boost the region’s economy.

Figures compiled by the House of Commons show Yorkshire’s economy grew by 3.5 per cent in real terms between 2010 and 2014, the lowest of any part of the UK except Northern Ireland.

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New Prime Minister Theresa May
Northern Powerhouse Minister Andrew Percy

And while the UK economy is expected to grow by 2.7 per cent a year over the next decade, in Yorkshire the figure is 2.4 per cent a year.

New Prime Minister Theresa May

Asked about the ongoing gap between Yorkshire’s economy and the rest of the country, Northern Powerhouse Minister Andrew Percy said: “We are clear that there is a gap, a decades old gap, between north and south. But we have got massive increases in employment in the North, in skilled employment especially.”

Mr Percy pointed to the Siemens wind turbine plant on the Humber which will open later this year as an example of the progress being made.

The Brigg and Goole MP continued: “There is a legacy issue, be it the skills gap and employment gap, and we are absolutely committed to try to close that and I think we can point already to a lot of positives that have already happened.

“There is a job of work to be done but be absolutely in no doubt the direction of the new government, as the Prime Minister said on the steps of Downing Street, is creating an economy that works for everybody, she’s been very clear about that, that’s one of the reasons I as a working class lad from East Yorkshire wanted to and was happy to serve in her government because I share that passion and am absolutely committed to making sure we make the best of the North.”

Northern Powerhouse Minister Andrew Percy

Between 2010 and 2014, the UK economy grew by 8.2 per cent in real terms, more than double that of Yorkshire.

Shadow Business Secretary Jon Trickett, the Hemsworth MP, said: “Despite being a hardworking, innovative and forward thinking region, we have the lowest average pay, the lowest economic growth and the lowest productivity in England. This is not the fault of us in Yorkshire. London has been the centre of gravity of Britain’s economy for far too long, sucking jobs and investment out of the rest of the country.

“The Tory government has talked about a Northern Powerhouse, but at best it’s empty words and at worst it’s a disguise for cuts. We still get less money for transport infrastructure, our public services have been hit hard and we don’t have enough decent, secure jobs.

“Labour has laid out plans for regional banks to rebalance Yorkshire’s economy and to invest in vital infrastructure. This is essential to address the problems we face.

“However the only way we can take control of our future in Yorkshire is to ensure our voices are heard. That is why we need real devolution. The people of Yorkshire are best placed to make the decisions about its future, not those in Whitehall.”

Devolution is one of the six priority areas pinpointed by The Yorkshire Post today, alongside education, farming, business, energy and transport.

Ed Cox, director of the IPPR North thinktank, said: “The Northern economy has huge economic potential in sectors such as energy, health innovation and logistics where Yorkshire is a global leader.

“But Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse rhetoric has to be turned into real investment and spades in the ground. The new chancellor must put his money where his mouth is and take a ‘North First’ approach to transport investment to transform connectivity and drive up productivity.

“Meanwhile, [Business and Energy Secretary] Greg Clark must work with northern leaders on an industrial strategy which brings out the best in northern business from the biggest cities to the smallest towns.”